Anniversary Post: Glenlivet 1954 & Caol Ila 1968 (Gordon & MacPhail)
Hey guys, it’s been five years now since the start of Words of Whisky. Since then, much has changed in my life. Luckily, all for the better. I’m about to enter my third year as a full-time freelance writer, which I’m confident will be another good one. If only because I’ll finally be attending the Spirit of Speyside Festival in 2019. But, since this is an anniversary post, I feel I should take a look back at 2018.
Time flies by, and sometimes it is good to pauze. I’ve done some fun shit this year, with the Whiskybase Gathering being undoubtedly one of the highlights. Aside from it being one of the best whisky festivals in the world, it was a MOMENT for me. Like, it made me realize that this is now part of what I do for a living. I visit whisky festivals, and write about it. Yes please.
Talking to Valentino Zagatti was another such highlight, while I also fondly remember visiting and writing about GlenAllachie shortly before Billy Walker announced the first ever bottlings during his reign. And one of my favourite pieces I’ve ever written was about Glenugie. Who knew research could be so much fun?
This year has also been the year that genever fully entered my professional life. I’ve introduced it as an element on Words of Whisky, but I also started writing for Gin Magazine. Especially my trip to Filliers Distillery is something I won’t soon forget.
I can confidently state that 2018 has treated me well, so it is only fitting that I should pick a few out-of-this-world samples for this anniversary post. As luck would have it, Gordon & MacPhail obliged, and sent me a couple of whiskies that certainly fit that bill. A 64-year-old Glenlivet from a refill sherry butt, and a 50-year-old Caol Ila from a refill sherry hogshead. Here we go.
Glenlivet 1954 64 Years Old (41%, Gordon & MacPhail, C#1412)
Nose: Somewhat waxy with hints of honey, but also apricots and Demerara sugar, while a slightly more acidic note (lemon peel, orange zest) hides in the background. Surprisingly, it has a somewhat farm-y element to it, which is then further enhanced by a touch of menthol and cigar tobacco.
Taste: Quite tannic, with a good amount of menthol, and some fair notes of sweet oranges. There’s also juicy plums and stewed pears, with a hint of tawny port. Somewhat herbal too, with hints of almonds and macadamia nuts.
Finish: Medium in length, with some brown sugar and pine leaves.
Caol Ila 1968 50 Years Old (52.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, C#4021901)
Nose: Very subtle whiffs of peat smoke, rubber soles, and whispers of hospital hallways. I’m not suggesting any iodine here, but like that antiseptic quality that just lives inside hospitals. And in this case I mean it as a good thing. There’s touches of soy and mushrooms too, while there’s also some fennel and aniseed, as well as vanilla, oranges and sultanas. And all supremely balanced.
Taste: The peat smoke is subtle, yet still fairly intense considering the advanced age of this whisky. Quite salty too, and a fair amount of charcoal and tar, as well as smoked cod. I love the sweet orange marmalade, and caramel glazed apples. Obviously very mature, yet the oak manages to restrain itself.
Finish: Lingering oak tannins, with embers and peat. Long.
The complexity on the nose is what makes the Caol Ila especially stunning. There’s just so much going on. If I dare say, while extremely good, the Glenlivet is a bit more pedestrian. I know, blasphemy almost, and I can hardly believe I just typed that, because I’d gladly drink this type of whisky for the rest of my life.
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.